Game Over, Man! – The Fifth Element

In our Game Over, Man! series, we explore the history of video games that are based on movies, one game at a time. This week, Shaun Eddleston takes a look at 1998’s The Fifth Element for the PlayStation…

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Just to put this out there, 1997’s The Fifth Element is personally one of my all-time favourite movies. It’s a vibrant, loud and quirky cheesefest of a sci-fi adventure movie that is infinitely quotable and features some of the most memorable roles of actors such as Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich and Gary Oldman. The film’s box office success garnered enough attention for a tie-in game released a year later, and that’s where we shall begin on the “Game Over, Man!” series…

Released on PlayStation and PC in September 1998, The Fifth Element game sees players take control of either Leeloo or Korben Dallas, as they fight their way through the police, the ugly dog-like Mangalores and Zorg’s hired goons to face off with Zorg himself, and save the planet from an evil force.

There are 16 levels (referred to as “missions”) to complete, and gameplay consists of third-person shooting, platforming and puzzle solving. Completing missions often triggers certain FMV cutscenes from the movie too.

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This sounds like pretty standard fare for a tie-in video game release for a big-budget Hollywood movie, but a couple of questions still remain; 1) Does the game match up to the quality of the movie? and 2) Is it a good game in general?

It doesn’t, and it isn’t.

There’s a whole laundry list of issues that not only makes The Fifth Element one of the worst movie games that I have ever played, but cements it as one of the worst PlayStation games that I have ever played too.

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First of all, the game only barely follows the movie’s plot, instead opting for a slight variation on it. Considering how The Fifth Element has a story that should be easily be translatable to a video game of this type, including sequences that are essentially perfect for the medium, such as the shootout on the Fhloston Paradise ship between Korben and the invading Mangalores (complete with Ruby Rhod screaming away as the chaos unfolds). The film’s plot isn’t tough to follow, so the game’s laziness feels even stronger by making a half-assed attempt at creating a new one.

The triggered cutscenes from the movie upon completing a mission are one of the highlights of the game, but, as the game isn’t exactly following the original plot, these video clips are in the wrong chronological order, which makes things very confusing. Despite this, seeing these movie clips is always a positive thing, as it serves as a reminder that the film is a much more entertaining experience, and you should probably watch that instead of playing the game.

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Combat is an essential element in this genre of video games, and is undoubtedly one of the most important things to focus on when developing a game of this kind. The Fifth Element gets this wrong in a number of ways, both in armed and hand-to-hand combat. While you never need to worry about running out of ammunition, the guns are wildly inaccurate and underpowered, especially in the early stages of the game. Firing at police and aliens as Korben Dallas should feel satisfying in this setting, but instead ends up as a frustrating “shoot everywhere on-screen but the target by default” experience that makes things much more difficult than they need to be.

Unarmed combat as Leeloo is just as annoying. Fighting off Zorg’s thugs feels slow, janky and completely broken at times, which matches up to the theme of The Fifth Element‘s controls throughout. Being within point-blank range of an enemy and missing them entirely with your punches and kicks incites near-controller breaking rage levels at times, and just adds to how unenjoyable the overall experience is.

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Throw in some boring puzzles that are too easy to solve, laughably crap enemy AI and some absolutely baffling level design, and it makes the game feel like it drags on forever, offering no incentive whatsoever for players to finish it.

The graphics are a bit of an eyesore too. While the character designs in the movie are pretty cartoonish to begin with, the game’s attempt at recreating them misses the mark somewhat. If it wasn’t for the handful of iconic costumes from the film, then this would be virtually unrecognisable as a Fifth Element game, but as a sub-par science fiction adventure romp.

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At a stretch, die-hard (ha, see what I did there?) fans of The Fifth Element may be able to gleam some enjoyment out of this one. That being said, I wasn’t able to do so, as this is one of the most disappointingly poor games I’ve played in a long time.

Why not try the other Bruce Willis-centric game that was released in the same year, Apocalypse, instead? It’s not perfect, but it’s a vast improvement on this mess of a game.

You can also check out Cinefix‘s vision of what an 8-bit game of The Fifth Element would look like below…

Stay tuned for another entry on this movie!

Did you ever play game of The Fifth Element? What’s your favourite line from the movie? Let us know in the comments below, or send a tweet our way!

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